The RCMP have seen an increase in catalytic converter thefts this summer, including one attempted theft in Lytton, and are issuing both a warning to the public and a request for people to watch for suspicious activity.
“What qualifies as suspicious?” asks Sgt. Peter DeVries of the North Vancouver RCMP. “Well, if it’s 4 a.m., you hear a grinding noise on the street outside, you see a person under a car with a power tool, and there’s a vehicle idling next to them, that’s not your local house-call mechanic getting an early start on the day’s work.”
That’s what one resident in central Lonsdale saw earlier this year around 4:30 a.m. “He did exactly what we’re asking everyone in the public to do when they see something suspicious,” says DeVries. “Call 9-1-1 and tell us what you see.”
While catalytic converter theft has largely been a Lower Mainland issue until now, it is reaching into all parts of the province. A man from Vancouver Island and a B.C. Lower Mainland woman face potential criminal charges after an alleged interrupted theft of the catalytic converter from a passenger van near Lytton on Aug. 22.
The circumstances of the crime were very similar to the one reported in central Lonsdale. Lytton RCMP responded to a report of a mischief and attempted theft in progress along Main Street. An astute citizen could hear a power saw cutting through metal and noticed a man and a woman who appeared to be attempting to remove the catalytic converter from a Honda Odyssey minivan.
“The alert citizen verbally confronted the duo, who fled the scene,” says Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the BC RCMP Southeast District. “Frontline officers located a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle description south of Lytton and made two arrests without incident.”
Investigators attended the scene, examined the vehicle targeted by the duo, and determined that the catalytic converter had almost entirely been removed. The 38-year-old Madeira Park man and 50-year-old Coquitlam woman each face potential criminal charges.
What is a catalytic converter anyway? And why would someone steal one? As part of a car’s exhaust system, a catalytic converter converts many of a vehicle’s more harmful exhaust pollutants into less harmful emissions.
Someone might steal one for its resale value, but more likely a thief will sell it to a recycling facility for the small amount of valuable metal it contains. A new catalytic converter costs between $100 and $200, but having one professionally installed will add hundreds of dollars to the bill.
Coquitlam RCMP say that they have also noticed an increase in the number of catalytic converter thefts. On average there were eight catalytic converter thefts reported each month to the Coquitlam RCMP between January and July 2019. During that same period in 2020 the average number of reports is up to 13 per month.
Here are some tips that can help reduce your chance of becoming a victim:
Listen for suspicious electrical tool noises and watch for people under cars, especially late at night or in isolated parking lots;
Park your vehicles in well-lit areas in view of security cameras;
If possible, use a locked garage or compound to park your vehicles overnight;
Install good lighting and functional security cameras that you know how to use;
Install a catalytic converter-specific security device, or have it welded to the vehicle frame; and
Adjust the security system on your vehicle, if already installed, to activate from vibrations, such as those produced by electrical tools.
Call 9-1-1 if you think you see a crime in progress, and report all catalytic converter thefts (or attempted thefts) to the police as soon as possible.
Coquitlam RCMP have shared a video which shows just how quickly thieves can remove a catalytic converter from a vehicle; it can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3hYca9w.